Next, we have the new album from New Orleans-based soul singer Roderick Harper titled "Evolving." It features a dozen tracks that include appearances from some special guests, like the late piano legend Ellis Marsalis, jazz sax icon Donald Harrison and vocalist/drummer Jamison Ross. The album begins with the smooth, swinging tempo of "Infinite Heart," which introduces you to Harper's warm, silky vocals. The soft, subtle touch of "Never Let Me Go" is highlighted by the beautiful piano work of Ellis Marsalis, while the dreams of racial justice is heard loud and clear on the emotional ballad "Someday We'll All Be Free." Roderick Harper picks up the tempo with the nostalgic sounds of "The Great City" and let his voice be his instrument with the wonderful skat-singing of "Valsa Minera." You will simply melt, listening to Harper's velvet voice on "In Summer," before he closes his new album with the loose, upbeat, New Orleans jazz flavor of "Salty Dog" and the final nod to his home with the graceful approach of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans."
jpsmusicblog.com - December 2020
JazzTimes is honored to premiere the video for “Never Let Me Go” by New Orleans-based vocalist Roderick Harper. The track, a cover of the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans classic first made famous by Nat King Cole, will appear on his album Evolving, scheduled for a November 20 release on RHM Entertainment.
“I’ve spent the last few years deep in a process of self-discovery and change,” Harper says. “I’ve been trying to understand myself, to peel off the cellophane and really get at what’s underneath. This album is the sound of me becoming the man I was always meant to be.”
Besides Harper on lead vocal, this version of “Never Let Me Go” features Robin Sherman on bass, Jamison Ross on drums, a string arrangement by Thomas Dawson, and—in one of his final recordings—the late great Crescent City pianist Ellis Marsalis, who contributes an aptly delicate and thoughtful solo intro. Harper describes Marsalis as “one of my mentors” and calls recording with him “a priceless gift … He taught me so much. I’m eternally grateful.”
Elsewhere on Evolving, another New Orleans icon, saxophonist Donald Harrison, not only guest-stars but also contributes a tune, “Infinite Heart” (with lyrics by Harper). Other tracks on the album include a rendition of Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”—a nod to Harper’s time with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra—and tributes to Shirley Horn (“The Great City”) and Betty Carter (“Look What I Got”).
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 3, 2020 – BY JAZZTIMES
“RODERICK HARPER is a Significant stylist and rising star among local young jazz vocalists. This Washington D.C. native always knew he wanted to sing and performed with school and city choirs and in local musicals. His favorite vehicles were R&B and pop, not jazz. In fact his first experience with jazz came serendipitously when he purchased Wynton Marsalis’ album, Think of One Album. At first he found the music confusing and hard to understand but he was looking for a challenge at the time. Becoming a jazz singer would be just that! However, not until he visited Southern University to check out their music program was he really immersed in jazz. He distinctly remembers walking down the halls of the music building and “boom, jazz was everywhere!” Roderick left D.C. where his family had been his strongest musical influence and came to study at Southern with Alvin Batiste. His dedication and talent forged strong connections with Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Picture Perfect, Alvin Batiste’s Jazztronauts. Roderick feels strongly responsible for the music he composes and performs and wants to inspire and set an example for others. His discovery of a jazz career has that fairy tale quality that promises a happy ending.”
— Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
“. . . Jon Hendricks and Company’s show also introduced a young musician sympathetic to his style, Roderick Harper of Southern University in Baton Rouge. The 23 year-old Harper, whose vocal aspiration were fueled by rhythm and blues, showed himself to be an able convert to jazz when Hendricks invited him onstage for a round of Thelonius Monk’s Rhythmaning. . .”
— Jazztimes Magazine
“. . .Duke Ellington’s “Sound of Love,” which featured a warm vocal contributed from Roderick X. Harper.” - -Reubea Jackson
— THE WASHINGTON POST
“. . . Among his young aces are bassist Roland Guerin and the smooth and serious singer, Roderick Harper. Their Soulful duet of “Body and Soul” expanded into a reading of “I Can’t Get Started” that featured Gerry Mulligan, Artistic Director of the jazz series, on piano” - Lloyd Sachs
— Chicago Sun-Times
“. . . Vocalist, Harper notes that Black Jazz Musicians of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s had to contend with frustrating racial barriers. Using drugs may have been their way of coping, he says. “We don’t have to deal with that. They broke down those walls. It’s our responsibility to take advantage of whatthey’ve given us” Harper says. While tipping their hat to Wynton Marsalis for planting the seeds of the traditional jazz renaissance, the guys in Picture Perfect cite their teacher, AlvinBatiste, as their foremost influence. “He’s the bridge builder. He’s passing on a legacy to us that we’ll by passing on to the next generation.” Harper says. . .. . . on vocalists Roderick Harper. “he’s a very special talent. He literally loves jazz.He’s able to do all the idioms of that period. But his own personality is beginning to form. It comes through in the way he turns a melody.” . . .” - Todd Dreher
— Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
“. . . The new jazz quintet Picture Perfect followed Out of Nowhere with a bluesier set that included a smoky vocal rendition of “Confirmation” by singer Roderick Harper.” - Danny Heitman
— STATE – TIMES Pycayune (Baton Rouge, La.)
“Roderick Harper is one of the featured local artists performing at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And, while he’s taken part in the festival several times in the past, it has always been in the background. “This is my first time performing as a solo artist, and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” says Harper. “I greatly enjoy performing with others. But, this platform gives me the chance to further establish myself as a solo artist. I always say that if given the chance, I will show you what I can do. I’m really looking forward to it.” Harper, a native of Washington, D.C., says while he is fond of his native city, his heart is definitely in New Orleans. “This is where my soul belongs,” he says. “My parents are from Louisiana. I attended college in Louisiana. My roots are here. It has given me so much. I am exactly where I belong.” He has been singing most of his life and was part of numerous jazz groups growing up. The first musical instruments he learned to play were the violin and trombone while in elementary school. He later took an interest in the clarinet and guitar in middle school. While attending college at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he participated in every ensemble and talent competition possible. A monumental turning point in his musical career came, however, when he joined Alvin Batiste and the Jazzstronaunts. It was during this time that he gained the attention of jazz pianist great, Ellis Marsalis. Harper was invited to sing with Marsalis at the recommendation of Batiste, and eventually landed a featured spot in the Ellis Marsalis Quartet. The rest, as it has often been said, is history. Harper would springboard this experience into an impressive and expansive list of world renowned singers and musicians with whom he’s had the pleasure to perform. In addition to Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis, he has worked with the likes of the Joe Sample, Danny Barker, Wessel Anderson, James Carter, Nicholas Payton, Dizzy Gillespie, Kent Jordan, Joe Lovano, Bobby Watson, Marcus Roberts, Stephen Scott, Max Roach, Terence Blanchard, Mark Whitfield, Cyrus Chestnut, Brian Blade, Betty Carter, Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and countless other local, national and internationally recognized artists. One of his biggest inspirations has come from legendary jazz singer and pianist, Shirley Horn. Harper admires her body of work, making mention of Horn’s greatest acknowledgments came during the second half of her musical career. Reflecting on her career, he said, “She had been nominated multiple times for a Grammy Award. However, she didn’t get her first one until she was in her sixties. She was passionate about her work. I am enthusiastic about the overall direction of my musical career. It’s never too late to do what you love and are passionate about. I’m passionate about my two girls in college, New Orleans, and just going for it.” Harper has a strong love for jazz music, but he is not limited to jazz. “In the early years, I used to call myself a jazz vocalist. Over the years, I’ve come to just say ‘vocalist’ because honestly, I can sing it all. I love music and the ability to connect with people as a musical artist. I’m ready and available to hit the road and travel anywhere I’m given the opportunity to perform,” he says. He opened up about being an independent artist and its many rewards. But, he also pointed out the fact of it having its share of challenges. He explains, “It is sometimes difficult as an independent artist to get exposure. I am appreciative of media outlets such as The New Orleans Tribune which take notice of local talent and share our works with their audiences. It is humbling and appreciated.” Harper already has two recorded CD’s under his belt. The first, Beautiful Beginnings, was produced by Delfeayo Marsalis. The second, The Essence Of…was produced by Grammy Award winner, Nicholas Payton. Additionally, he has been a featured vocalist on Kent Jordan’s Out Of This World CD, BET’s BlacKout, HBO’s Soul of the Game, Hurricane Katrina Documentary The Unmasking of Katrina, as well as a McDonalds and Folgers Coffee commercial. His third studio album has now been released. Perfect Imperfections can be found on all major musical outlets. He is currently working on an additional project, with details to be announced later in the year. ” - Joyce Kyles